Paul Mihailidis wants to know how organizations and people are using media to communicate with communities affected by international migration.
Mihailidis, associate professor of Marketing Communication and associate director of the Emerson Engagement Lab, was awarded a grant from the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, a foreign relations think tank based in Stuttgart, Germany, to report on ways policymakers, nonprofits, and individuals are crafting and sharing messages around refugees.
“Are they creating films? Are they having social network campaigns? Are they using games?” Mihailidis said.
The results of the study will be presented in July at a conference in Salzburg, Austria, sponsored by the Salzburg Academy on Media & Global Change, of which Mihailidis is program director. The goal is to be able to produce a set of recommendations of best practices and effective technologies, which could eventually lead to policy reform, he said.
Mihailidis said that in all of his conversations with foreign ministries, social media platforms, filmmakers, game designers, and other stakeholders, the one theme that has emerged so far is the importance of storytelling and personal narrative.
“Being able to foster that connection between communities kind of takes the abstraction out of it so it’s much less about policy…and more about supporting humans,” he said.
A game designer in Vienna who has done a lot of work with Syrian refugees has created a game for long-time residents to help them better understand the newcomers’ situations, with positive results, Mihailidis said.
Likewise, The 19 Million Project is a collective of storytellers, filmmakers, and journalists who are curating and sharing the narratives of migrants using different formats and social networks, he said.
Mihailidis said most of his research has been focused on work being done in the United States and Europe around migrants from the Middle East and North Africa, but “we are trying to looking at it holistically.”
“Hopefully, it’ll be impactful for our community as well, because Boston has been impacted by migration, as well as most cities,” he said.